23rd to 26th July

Wednesday 23 July

We pack the bikes and panniers in the car (that we had rented last Friday), and leave Joburg. It’s 8h, just the end of the daily traffic jam. We manage exiting Joburg without getting lost, and we drive on the barren plateau of the Free State. The landscape is quite desolated: yellow grass fenced for the cattle or the sheep, one lonely tree from time to time, some hills, and a long black ribbon to drive on. We have lunch near Bloemfontein, one of the capitals of South Africa. But we don’t stop much, we want to arrive tonight in Port Elizabeth (PE as the locals say). The landscape becomes more impressive, with some rocky formations as we go south of the Free State.

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There is a beautiful sunset on the mountains. And we slide down to the coastal valley. We encounter some playful (or suicidal) baboons crossing just in front of the car. We finally arrive in PE at 20h, at Carla and Luke’s place, in the north of the city. We had contacted their housemates through Warmshowers, but they are now in a bike trip in Korea. The house is wonderful. A mixture of wood and stone, with a nice fireplace, built maybe one century ago and recently renovated. So cosy! Luke has prepared a delicious lentil stew for dinner.

Thursday 24 July

After a few pictures with our hosts, we leave around 8h30.

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The temperatures are quite low, 5-10ÂșC and it is very wet. We wanted to go to the Addo Elephant Park, but the main entrance is 100km away, so we decide to skip it. We go to return the car at PE airport. We mount the bikes, have a couple of plates of spaghetti, and let’s go!

Finally, we’re pedalling! Today, we’ll go till Jeffrey’s Bay, some 80km ahead. We manage to take small roads all the way, avoiding the big, polluted, dangerous N2. The landscape is very green. It’s not forest around us, but mainly green fields as pasture for cattle. And some scattered trees, it looks a little like the Alps. A few baboons cross in front of us. And there are many great mansions, in such a peaceful environment, with view on the Indian Ocean.

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We arrive in Jeffrey’s Bay a little before sunset. We go to the hostel Ubuntu Africa. It is packed with surfers. In fact, this city is the biggest surfing spot in South Africa. Jeffrey’s Bay looks empty in the winter now, with many opulent mansions, in the higher part, totally deserted. For dinner, we cook pasta with blue cheese! it feels like home!

Friday 25 July

We get up at 6h40. It’s still dark outside. Get up or not? Ok, let’s go! Today, we have about 100km to cover, till Stormsriver. During most of the time, we’re on a rural road with fields on both sides, cows, some trees, one farm from time to time, but no village or city during 30km! better not have any emergency around here.

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We find a village where we can buy some food for lunch. The children look at us passing by, people salute us, and the dogs bark and chase us. A dozen of them pretend protect the village from the danger we are.

In the afternoon, the weather gets worse. Don’t worry, we still have front wind, but now there are big clouds threatening, it’s getting cold, and soon enough the first raindrops appear. Just the time to put on our “waterproof” clothes, and it’s raining cats and dogs (or like a cow peeing for French readers). There is no shelter, and anyway we don’t have time to waste if we want to arrive before sunset. The last two hours are a time-trial under the rain. To make things worse, there is no road except the N2, the big motorway between PE and Capetown.

We finally arrive in Stormsriver, totally wet. The “waterproof” layer did not work. The “cheapest” hostel of the village is still rather expensive, but having a roof and hot shower for the night has no price.

Saturday 26 July

We get up at 6 and prepare our stuff quickly. We leave just after sunrise, for Bloukrans bridge, 25km later. This bridge marks the border between the provinces of Eastern Cape and Western Cape. But more interesting is that it crosses a river which flows 216m under.

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And it has been used, since 2009, as a base for bungee jumping. The highest bridge for bungee jumping in the world! Of course, we cannot pass without trying it. This jump has been in our head for several days already, creating both excitation and fear. The preparation is very short: weighing, harness, 5 min speech and a 5 min walk to arrive to the middle of the bridge. The elastic is a 40m long spaghetti, 5cm in diameter, braided of hundreds of smaller elastic bands inside.

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It is certified for 1000 jumps, but here, they use it only 400 times for more security. One extremity is tied on the bridge and the other one to you: around the ankles and on the harness. Once with the elastic, you have to reach the edge of the bridge jumping like a kangaroo. Here comes the scariest part. You have to go to the edge so that the tip of your feet is above the void. You feel an irresistible force calling you into the void. 3, 2, 1, bungee!

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The countdown has been said very fast so that you don’t have time to think and jump directly. Very soon, you feel the speed. And the landscape changing very fast in front of you. Within 4-5 seconds, the elastic starts to pull your feet up, you have reached your maximum speed, 120km/h. It’s a few seconds more for the deceleration and you bounce up. The elastic can elongate till 185m (for the heaviest people), so there is still a big margin before touching the water under. The bounces are not as impressive as the initial jump. But they allow you to see the landscape and also to get the feeling of flying like a bird. Once your bounces are smaller, someone comes to rescue you and brings you back to the bridge. In total, it lasted less than 2 minutes. Afterwards, it’s funny to see the fear on the face of the next candidates.

We then continue our ride. Today, we want to arrive in Knysna, still 75km ahead.

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As we continue on the road, the weather gets worse. Strong head wind and threatening clouds. It’ll rain rather soon. And we probably cannot make it to reach Knysna before the night. So we decide to stop earlier, in Plettenberg Bay, where we arrive around 15h30. The day has been short, only 70km, but rich in emotions. We have a nice rest in the Nothado Backpackers. It seems that in South Africa, you have whether luxurious hotels, in beautiful mansions, or this kind of backpackers, where you can cook, you sleep in dorms, and with a common living room with tables, TV, pool! For dinner, we stick to our pasta diet.

Are you ready to jump with us?